Battle of the Box Mixes

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In just a few days the gridiron battle, known as the Super Bowl, will be underway at Cowboy’s Stadium. In the spirit of competition I have staged my own battle here in the Davis Kitchen. But, instead of football teams the competitors are cake mixes. And instead of just two, there will be five. This is the Battle of the Box Mixes!

It seems that everyone has different opinions about boxed cake mixes, some love them and some hate them. Some will use them, but only if they add stuff to them. No matter what your feelings are, you have to admit that they are super handy to keep in the pantry for those times when your kid comes home from school and says “Mom, I forgot to tell you that I signed you up to bring cupcakes for the class party tomorrow.”

There are several brands in the grocery stores and you can also buy “premium” brands at Michael’s Craft Store and online. I wanted to see whose cake mix would come on top if I put them all to a taste test. I decided to go with chocolate cakes since chocolate seems to be a favorite of most people. To be honest, chocolate is the flavor I like least in cake but it is the one that I get the most requests for.

I baked each batch of cupcakes in a different colored baking cup so that the testers would not know what brand they tasted but I could still keep track of their results. I asked them to taste all five cupcakes and then place them in order from their favorite to least favorite.

And the competitors are…….

#1 Betty Crocker Milk Chocolate Cake Mix, baked in the red baking cups and purchased at Wal-Mart for $1.16

#2 Pillsbury Chocolate Cake Mix, baked in the yellow baking cups and purchased at Wal-Mart for $1.00

#3 Duncan Hines Devil’s Food Cake Mix, baked in the blue baking cups and purchased at Wal-Mart for $1.16.

#4 CK Premium Chocolate Cake Mix, baked in the gold baking cups and purchased online at for $3.49, not including shipping. (It actually comes in a bag, not a box.)

#5 Duff Goldman Chocolate Premium Cake Mix, baked in the silver baking cups and purchased at Michael’s Craft Store for $7.99. You might know Duff from his Food Network show Ace of Cakes. He recently launched his own line of baking and decorating products.

It is a little tricky trying to compare apples to apples with chocolate cake since there are lots of different kinds of chocolate varieties; Swiss, Milk, German, Devil’s Food, etc. The Pillsbury, CK, and Duff brands all had a flavor that was just “Chocolate” so I used those. For some reason my local Wal-mart has greatly reduced its stock of Duncan Hines mixes, so the only chocolate choice I had for that was Devil’s Food. Finally, for the Betty Crocker I went with a Milk Chocolate flavor since that is a pretty middle-of-the-road chocolate, not too rich but not as mild as German Chocolate.

I baked all five brands.

I followed the directions exactly on each of the boxes. If the brand included a high altitude adjustment I also followed that since I live at about 4,500 ft. After all the cakes were baked I took them to 18 different people and conducted my taste test. Here are the results.

The overwhelming winner was…..

CK Premium Chocolate Cake Mix

This stood out way above all the others and was the favorite of the majority of those tested.

Second place went to Duff Goldman Premium Chocolate Cake Mix. Apparently there is something to these premium brands.

The three grocery store brands all fell below the premium brands but came in pretty close to each other. The leader of this group was…

Betty Crocker Milk Chocolate Cake MixBuy at Amazon

Followed by….

Duncan Hines Devil’s Food Cake MixBuy at Amazon

Unfortunately, the bottom spot on the majority of the tests went to Pillsbury Chocolate Cake Mix.

So there is the final down in the Super Bowl of chocolate cake mixes. It seems that the extra money you pay for the premium brands does make a difference. I don’t know if it is worth 3 to 8 times the cost of the grocery store brands but I guess that is up to each individual consumer.

Now that I still have some chocolate cupcakes left over I think I will come up with a fun cupcake idea for Valentine’s Day. Check back with me next week to see what I create.

Until then, God bless and Sweet Dreams!

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  1. Since being diagnosed with Celiac’s almost a year ago I have found baking from a mix is MUCH easier. I haven’t tried any of the GF cake mixes yet but I have done a bunch of the brownie mixes and I have found the Betty Crocker GF Brownie Mix to be above and beyond all the others. Just thought I’d throw that out there! Thanks for your taste tests though!! 🙂

  2. Paula, I had kept track of the yields and forgot to enter them in the post. Here is a break down of all the yields by number of cupcakes they made.
    CK – 21
    Duff – 22
    Betty Crocker – 26
    Duncan Hines – 27
    Pillsbury – 23
    I will have to do a white cake and a gluten-free cake mix test in the future.

  3. Ive never tried the premium brands but I started out making ‘scratch’
    cakes until my business grew & I was just a home baker & 60 cakes a week I went to box! Duncan Hines had the Moistest& Best Chocolate flavor. Leaving out an egg helped. Betty Crocket Triple Choc wasnt half bad. Sometimes for 3D cakes Box is TOO Moist! The Industry Sucks for profit Not Product!! With a commercial kitchen/mixer scratch is great.I tried them all but as for me even though Duncan Gone yielded more, there light flavors, vanilla, had a ‘coconut’ flavor that I found offensively like what it was ‘box’. Pillsbury in the past was for me the BEST next to scratch until Last Year when the companies did the Dumbest thing for $$& profit & “decreased the weight & volume” & with Pillsbury ‘they changed the

    formula’!! They all followed suit which changed the measured standard for Cake Pans!! It SUCKS! BC, P, DH SUCK! NOT 1 Would take the Stand to keep the 18.5 oz & just go up on the price! Even increasing the mix Hasn’t helped-Pillsbury’s formula is totally off! I got More compliments on it thru the years than ‘Scratch’

  4. Im going back to scratch if I dont decide to teach. I just think the industry should & could have left the mixes alone for the average consumer! Nothing bakes correctly & the 18 oz portions fit the standards of cake pans! 2 for 11×15, 3-18oz for 12×18 sheet & easy for Larger Cakes for Weddings! They now have Less product with the SAME Measured ingredients- spells Disaster Or Addictive!! You’d have to charge SO Much more with the preminum with shipping & theyre NOT readily available!!! Anyone out there can give me some clues on Sponge Cake? The recipes ive tried arent moist!! Does any1 care to share a VANILLA Cake thats MOIST can be used in a 5-6 Qt Mixer?

  5. Kinda afraid to try CK Brand & they too decide to decrease the contents of their cake mix??!!! With 3D sculptured cakes you need a dense choc or vanilla but I want it Moist tasting & able to hold fillings or mousse!

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